An open letter to Rep. Howard Coble

by Ogi Overman

Dear Congressman Coble:

You wouldn’t remember me, but we used to chat a bit in the press box of old War Memorial Stadium when I was the official scorer for the Bats/Hornets and you’d come up to press a little flesh. We do have a mutual friend in radio personality Dusty Dunn, as I’ve been sitting in with him on a weekly basis for the better part of 15 years and you’ve been a frequent guest even longer. Although I’m a yellow dog Democrat and Dusty’s political leanings are more in line with yours, we are living proof that friendship overrides political persuasion, that there are many commonalities to be found outside one’s party affiliation and that reasonable men can disagree and still remain comrades.

I bring up Dusty only because it illustrates your relationship with your constituents. Folks around here like you and trust you and continue to reelect you, even though many couldn’t possibly agree with your stance on every issue. It seems that integrity and honesty play a larger role than party labels and voting record to many folks, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I myself have crossed party lines to vote for you when my fellow Democrats have failed to nominate a viable candidate to oppose you. No one can deny your accessibility and responsiveness to the members of your district, which counts for a lot in my book, and your staff has always been most cordial and professional. My wife, Janet, is normally the letter-writer of the family, and when she sends you a missive she never fails to get a timely reply.

So I wanted to take this opportunity to both thank you and ask a favor. First, I’d like to sincerely commend you for being among the first of your party to break ranks and question our seemingly endless involvement in Iraq. When you and your District 3 colleague Walter B. Jones, from my old stomping grounds down in Greenville, openly criticized the president for his mishandling of the war he himself started, that gave pause to even his most ardent supporters that perhaps Bush’s vision was flawed. But now, as we see after his speech last Thursday, he has no intention of ever bringing our troops home. Instead of a seemingly endless war, we are facing a literally endless war.

And that’s where the favor comes in. It’s perhaps naïve of me to ask, but I am going to plead with you to cast what is probably the single most important – and certainly the most courageous – ballot of your life and vote to de-fund this immoral war. As you and the rest of us heard last week, the US will have an “enduring presence” in Iraq if Bush is left to his own devices. Essentially, he told Congress and the military and the American people and the world that he’s the decider, and he has decided that American imperialism in the Middle East will continue unabated in perpetuity and that there’s not a thing anyone can do about it.

Tragically, he’s probably right. He’ll have his way until he leaves office (488 days from now, as of Wednesday), leaving the next administration to try to repair the damage he perpetuated. He has successfully made the argument, circular though it is, that a vote against war funding is a vote against giving the troops the armaments and equipment they need to defend themselves, knowing that most senators and congressmen have no choice but to comply. Even many who usually get it right, such as Sen. Joe Biden, have bought into this faulty logic, thereby guaranteeing a war without end.

What I am asking, Howard, is that you deconstruct this argument, break with the rank and file, and cut off funding for Bush’s war. Do not fall for his bogus appeals that cutting off funding would cost American lives, when it is he who is costing American lives. He says we must support the troops because they’re in harm’s way, as if we’ve forgotten exactly who put them in harm’s way. Rather, what if you countered that the only true support for them is to bring them home?

There is a greater good in play here that far supercedes party loyalty and, based on your comments, I think you know that, Howard. Your higher self is telling you to do the moral thing but the political animal within is screaming that to sleep with the enemy (AKA the Democrats) is committing political suicide. Fact is, though, it isn’t. By putting morality above political expediency you’d be revered as a folk hero. If only you and 40 or so of your GOP colleagues and seven or eight senators voted their conscience to end this war, Congress could override a veto and begin restoring some sanity, diplomacy and morality to our foreign policy.

Be a hero, Howard. Please.

Ogi may be reached at, heard Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. on “The Dusty Dunn Show” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen on “Triad Today” Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV 48.